Urdu and Indian nationalism

Print edition : December 16, 2005

THE linguistic genocide of Urdu in the north, in Uttar Pradesh particularly, owes as much to malevolence on the part of Congress leaders like G.B. Pant, Puroshottam Das Tandon and Sampurnanand as to the Sangh Parivar which has held that "Urdu is a foreign language which is a living monument to our slavery. It must be eradicated from the page of existence. Urdu is the language of the malechhas [a derogatory word for non-Hindus] which has done great harm to our national ends by attaining popularity in India". This was said in 1933 (The Jana Sangh; Craig Baxter; pages 19-20).

K.C. Kanda's superb compilation strikingly demonstrates that like the slogan Inquilab (Revolution), Urdu poetry inspired India's revolutionaries and patriots during the freedom struggle (Masterpieces of Urdu Poetry; Sterling; pages 449, Rs.350). From Sauda in the 18th century right down to Ali Sardar Jafri and Kaifi Azmi in our times, inspiring poems by 38 poets have been included in this volume. Each poem is printed in the original Persian script as well as in Roman script with an English translation alongside.

Second only to Hindu revivalists, Muslim revivalists and politicians, particularly the Muslim Leaguers, inflicted grave harm on Urdu by giving it a communal colour to promote their own ends.

This volume, like any such compilation, exposes their ignorance and their sordid designs. Poets such as Ram Parshad Bismil, Durga Sahay Saroor, Brij Narain Chakbast, Raghupati Sahai Firaq and Jagan Nath Azad rendered high service to Urdu. So has K.C. Kanda. This is his 12th compilation (all published by Sterling). He is now working on Mohammed Iqbal's poetry. His selection is catholic and judicious.

Kanda holds that a great poem (reproduced here), the favourite of revolutionaries as they went to the gallows, was written by Ram Parshad Bismil. The poet scholar Jafri told this writer, on September 17, 1995, that it was written by Bismil Azimabadi. It is not for this writer to pronounce who is right:

We are now raring to die for our country's sake Let's see how much of strength the assassin can display! O traveller on the path of love, do not drop mid-way, It is the distance of the goal that glorifies the chase. Standing by the gallows the hangman makes a call, Come, if there be any, by the martyr's zeal enthralled. We'll tell you all, O sky, wait till the time arrives, How can we at this stage, our secret plans unveil? O martyrs in the nation's cause, kudos to your sacrifice. Even in the enemy camp they talk of you with praise. Fired by patriotic fervour, many a maddened youth Has gathered at the crossing, itching for the cross. Why are they mute and silent? no whisper, no talk, Everyone that I see has got his lips locked. Sar faroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai,

Dekhna hai zor kitna baazoo-e-qaatil main hai! Rahraw-e-rah-e-mohabbat rah na jana rah mein, Lazzat-e-sahra nawardi doori-e-manzil mein hai. Yoon khara maqtal mein qaatil kah raha hai baar baar, Kya tamanna-e-shahaadat bhi kisi ke dil mein hai Waqt aane par bata denge tujhe ai aasmaan, Hum abhi se kya bataaen kya hamaare dil mein hai. Ai shaheed-e-mulk-o-millat tere jazbon par nissar, Teri qurbaani ka charcha ghair ki mehfil mein hai. Kheinch kar laai hai sabko qatal hone ki umeed, Aashiqon ka aaj jamghat koocha-e-qaatil mein hai. Ek se karta nahin koi doosra koi bhi baat, Dekhta hoon main jise woh chup tiri mehfil mein hai.

Ram Parshad was a man with a soul, as Bhagat Singh noted in prison. Both concluded that "bombs cannot secure our purpose". Men like these were sent to the gallows by the British. Urdu was sent to the gallows by Congressmen in complicity with the Sangh Parivar. Jafri told this writer how distressed he was that children from families whose mother tongue was Urdu for generations, could not learn it in Uttar Pradesh. Scholars who love Urdu should bring out a Black Book documenting the linguistic genocide.

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